(Reuters) Fox News host Bill O’Reilly described Putin as “a killer” in the interview with Trump as he tried to press the U.S. president to explain more fully why he respected his Russian counterpart. O’Reilly did not say who he thought Putin had killed.
O’Reilly’s assertion is probably an amalgam of feelings, stemming from
- The conduct of the Russian intervention in Syria, and of Russia’s proxy, the government of Bashar Assad.
- The tendency, in Russia, of prying journalists, errant members of the Kremlin’s inner circle, and, to a lesser extent, figures of the political opposition, to end up dead or injured.
- Putin’s career as a KGB officer.
The conduct of Russia in Syria was covered by
The”tendency” was addressed with
meaning, that Russia is a country where there are plenty of people, in government, associated with government, or freelancers, who are willing and able to do the deed. To Putin’s Apology, in any particular case, we could add
- He was sorry that it happened.
- He was glad that it happened.
- He ordered it to happen.
In any particular case, no one knows beyond a doubt which it was. It seems to have been a mix. In the West, the failure to separate one’s self from a “situation” is covered by Aesop’s fable, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” But Kurt Waldheim, 4th Secretary General of the U.N., and 9th President of Austria, when accused as a Nazi, successfully mounted the defense “couldn’t extricate himself”. Perhaps we should extend the courtesy to Vladimir Putin. Putin’s Apology includes the line, of which I myself am skeptical:
“Putin is working for change from the inside.”
It might have once been true. People change. Perhaps, before the NGO’s were thrown out of Russia, before the peace of Europe was broken in the Ukraine, before Sweden felt it necessary to re-institute a military draft. If he wishes, Putin can edit it out.
Perhaps O’Reilly’s feeling is really anchored by Putin’s KGB career. The KGB, in continuity with the organs that preceded it, was the direct instrument of repression of the Soviet state. But the culture of these organs was not continuous; it changed radically between 1917 and 1991.
Putin must have absorbed at least some of the culture of the KGB, with which he spent a major part of his professional life. But what was that culture when he was there?
Next: The culture of the KGB.